Kitchen Diaries III by Nigel Slater

So last night I took delivery of the latest version of the Kitchen Diaries which I have been lost in for a large part of the last 12 hours

It’s too early for a review. I can say that the prose does not disappoint but the recipes have left me wondering on several occasions “where the hell will I find that in rural Warwickshire !”

More later I have to work

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If it’s September then it must be…Blackberries

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I know it is no longer September but I’ve been having technological issues – beside the blackberries round us were very late this year. In Reading where I work they were starting to appear in mid July but in Warwickshire they weren’t worth eating until mid September…

Which is when a neighbour (I guess I should call him Flapjack King since he is the Flapjack Queen’s other half) challenged myself and the rest of the road to a “Hedgerow Bake Off”…after that is he had picked all the blackberries within immediate reach. This gave him a significant time advantage…not that it helped as Fate took a hand and evened the playing field for the rest of us.. FJK misread his recipe, failed to add enough gelatine and ended up with a blackberry flavoured sauce instead of the Pana Cota he’d been hoping for !

The entrants to the Itchy Bishop Hedgerow Challenge included:

– Pumpkin Pie,

-Pecan Pie (yes I know they don’t grow in Warwickshire, but they were selling them in the local tesco so I guess it counts !)

-Blackberry and Raspberry Roulade

-Blackberry Syllabub,

-a liquid Pana Cota and his back up Bakewell Tart

– a moist chocolate cake with a blackberry compote filling (Chocolate Ganache icing)…

and my contribution which was a blackberry bread and butter pudding (Nigel Slater Tender II) as by the time I’d finished my gardening and gone out and found some blackberries I only had an hour left…and to be frank wasn’t in the mood to do the Madeleines I’d planned (Madeleines…far too much effort for such small cakes !)

Unfortunately we forgot to pace ourselves with the sampling, by the time they got to mine no one could manage more than a small spoonful…maybe we made a mistake in combining the bake off with the last barbecue of the summer…

I forgot to get pics but O Mighty Tim snapped the one above…which I’ve had to pinch from his facebook as he is  also having a week where technology is biting him on the bottom…

The winner was unanimously declared to be 9 year old Flapjack Princess’ chocolate cake

My Bread and Butter pudding unfortunately became my breakfast and lunch the next day as it turned out that neither Spider or OMT eat it…wish they’d mentioned that before I’d made it  😦

So there you go, a new memory to go along with the hundred I already have of fun in the sun and blackberries including

Memory  2006 – We are in the process of buying our current house and we take a sneaky peak of the road from the “country” bit of the lane…the hedges are full of sloes and blackberries and an 18 month old Spider keeps leaning from my arms, pointing stuttering out the words  “Black-Black, Black-Black”…

Memory  1993 – It is September, students are not yet back at university but postgraduate and masters students haven’t stopped. I go to visit a friend who is doing a masters in psychology of something or other…her household is the welcoming sort where a friend of one is a friend of all. We go for a walk in the countryside round Cardiff before heading back for a house family Sunday dinner of  roast chicken. The walk is one of glorious autumn sunshine, climbing trees and kicking through the first fallen leaves. As we reach the car we spot blackberries and after a quick search of pockets for a plastic bag forage enough to take back for crumble and custard.

Memory July-ish  1980 or 81 Malvern Railway station, we are waiting for someone after school, it may be Dad or Mum can’t remember who but there was only 1 of my parents there and my brother…bored we roam the car park until we fall on some amazingly early blackberries rambling over a wall…but then the summers of your childhood are always warm enough for early blackberries to appear…

This weekend we managed to rustle up enough blackberries to go in a crumble to follow our roast…which I am sorry to say is the usual fate for my foraging other than the occasional jam, compote or simply scoffing them straight off the bush…but then I love the wonderful jammy perfume of a crumble filling the kitchen

Maybe next year I might manage something more ambitions…but I doubt it…

If it’s September then it must be…Sweetcorn

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I’ve been sitting on this post for most of the last month meaning to sort some photos out…and now I’ve almost run out of the month so here it is anyway…

Memory 1  1994

It’s November and for once I have done my Christmas shopping early. There is a chill in the air and mist over the back garden and I am looking through Real Good Food by Nigel Slater which I have bought for my brother for Christmas.

My interest is caught by the chapter on barbeques and I am captivated and transported from this chilly midlands morning to a summer evening in a garden in London by Nigel’s description of how he uses a flowerpot filled with stones, charcoal and the rack from his grill to barbecue on… then follows a description of his way of soaking the sweetcorn and then placing the cob still covered by the husk on the rack and roasting it slowly over hot coals…eaten blistering hot with chilli flavoured butter…

Memory 2  1990 ?

I am watching a rerun of MASH and Colonel  Sherman Potter (photo from the monster mash wiki)

Sherman potter

is explaining how when he gets home he is going to go outside into one of the fields surrounding his house,  “Well, I like fresh corn. I mean real fresh corn. So I think maybe I’ll just take a hot plate out to the garden, make a pot of boiling water, then I won’t even pick that corn – I’ll bend that stalk till the ear dips into the water, and I’ll eat it right there standing up. Scrumptious! ”    

Doesn’t that just make you want to grow some so you can do it yourself ?

Memory 3 1976 or 1977

Hong Kong. Two travel weary parents take their children out into the streets of Wan Chai  (these days its quite a smart area full of hotels and conference centres, back then it was ah… interesting !) looking for somewhere to eat… although these children have been brought up to eat what is put in front of them, the parents are somewhat nervous, remember Chinese food was not as popular in the UK as it is today, and these 2 children, despite the culinary adventures of the parents still have very  british palettes.

As it turned out the place that the family eventually walked into started the set menu off with a bowl of soup, a bowl of chicken soup on top of which was a yellow sea of sweetcorn…and in this backstreet Hong Kong restaurant started a love affair which has lasted over 37 years.

For many years if asked what my favourite food was I would say without hesitation “chicken and sweetcorn soup”… and fortunately my Mum usually had a batch in  the freezer…and although it was not the soup of my memory it was usually pretty damn good…

Is it good for you ?

Well it’s a vegetable and like a lot of vegetables mainly water with just under 20% of it’s weight being carbohydrate (3% sugar), with about 3g out of 100g accounting for dietary fibre, 3g protein and a further 1g or so counting as fat. From a vitamin point of view it has some vitamin B, some vitamin c

A discussion about what technology has done to it and where it might appear as  a product in other food stuffs is probably one for another day but on balance I would say that on its own it can’t hurt you…and most areas of the world seem to have developed ways of eating it in combination with other things (beans) in order to get a balanced diet…

How you cook it and what you serve it up with is a different matter…I, like a lot of children no doubt,  grew up being served boiled sweetcorn slathered in butter…and given the choice that is usually how I do serve it up if there is no chicken in the house !

What goes with it ?

Most soup recipes (other than chicken) seem to involve sweet potatoes and chili…or they go down the chowder route…there are a large number of recipes involving mixing them with egg and either as a pancake, omlette or fritter or a corn custard. Salads tend to involve adding them to mayonnaise.

More interesting recipes I have seen of late involve adding them to Turkey Meatballs (Ottolenghi) and in Plenty More they get served up with miso, I quite like adding a squeeze of lime juice over my freshly boiled corn if I am trying to avoid the butter

So how did you serve it this time ?

Having fallen in love with Nigel’s prose almost 20 years ago I had planned to grill it over charcoal but because of a busy month my corn wasn’t looking too good as we approached the end of the month so soup it was…one of the many sweet potato/red pepper/chilli combos but Tesco’s failed to provide me with a sweet potato… I did have a fridge full of slightly less than impressive vegetables (carrots, peas, a leek)…and there was left over chicken in the freezer so… yep, chicken and sweetcorn soup it was…

No deconstruction

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I’ve had several posts in mind this week but a combination of work, work’s network collapsing (meaning I’ve been fighting the backlog all week) plus half term mean that I haven’t had a chance to sit down until now…and this morning I’ve been preparing food for a party later this afternoon to celebrate my Dad’s 75th Birthday (“Hi Dad, Happy Birthday”).

Normally on a sunday morning I sit down with the Observer and soak up Nigel Slater’s glorious food orientated prose but I’m too traumatised by the Coq au Vin I made at 8am this morning

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You probably can’t see from the photo but there is at least 100ml of fat in that jug, which came out of the chicken thighs when they were being browned… from the taste of the finished dish I probably could have done with draining off a bit more, however I’m hoping that I can skim some more off before I serve it, which won’t be until after 1pm.

In the meantime, Nigel has 2 mouth watering recipes involving game birds which since they fly around in thee wild (yay ! Exercise for poultry) are lean and tasty rather than fat and flabby as the chickens whose thighs have ended their days in my wine and onion stew obviously are. So I’m not going to deconstruct the recipes today as actually they look pretty good and healthy as they are…and playing around with them might lead to dry meat which would be a shame.

Also worth checking out in the Observer this sunday is Jay Rayner’s review of Zest I’m sure the food is nice but the review had me giggling into my cornflakes.

Baked Sardines and Pine Nuts…in moderation

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I deconstructed Nigel Slater’s Baked Sardine and Pine Nut recipe more as an exercise…unless O’Mighty Tim has a damascan style conversion to fish this won’t be appearing for dinner in this house anytime soon. It’s not suitable for taking for lunch as it’s served hot/warm and I don’t have anything capable of keeping it hot for longer than 3 hours at the moment.

Sardines are meant to be a  healthy option being 25% protein, oodles of vitamin B, 9% fat and most of it poly unsaturated plus being good sources of vitamin D, calcium and Omega 3 fatty acids. 10 small sardines, according to FitDay comes out at at approximately 104 calories of which 5.7g are fat.

The whole dish however (serving 3-4 people) comes out at 1611 calories of which 131g are fat, 12.3g protein and 0% fat. In other words 70% fat, but most of that being poly or monounsaturated…so falling more into the “good fats” category.  A 3 person portion is 537 calories, if it serves 4 person then that drops to 402 calories.

If you want to make this less calorific then you could play around with the olive oil (accounts for 477 of the total dishes calories, 54g fat) or reduce the pine nuts…but perhaps not by too much as the pine nuts are part of the point of the dish. The 100g pine nuts accounts for 673 calories and 68g fat.  Reducing the olive oil to 2 tablespoons and the pine nuts to 80g will reduce a 4 person serving down to 309 calories…don’t know what that will do to the flavour as I’m not going to get a chance to try it…

I think what I’d probably do for this is to call a portion equal to 2 fish and serve it with either steamed veg or a citrus dressed salad… a 2 fish serving brings it down to 322 calories (18g fat)

I didn’t bother working out the cake…same rules apply to cake as they do to G&T the occasional one is fine…however for the cake to be equivalent in calories as a G&T you would need to divide it into about 24 slices…and only eat it on a day where you’d had no other fat !

 

A new direction ?

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I have been meaning to give the blog a facelift for sometime…in fact I started to do so at the beginning of the year, but then caught the flu and for quite some time have had no real interest in food… But then it is difficult to sustain an interest in food when you are bombarded by media messages about how the developed world is heading for an obesity crisis and that we are all eating such bad bad things !

 It cannot be denied that we (me and Husband) are both overweight, we are both about a stone above where we are comfortable being and in truth really need to lose 2 stone each…and you are probably thinking “well what do you expect when you have a blog called “Appetite for Cake”. Surprisingly though it is not the cake that is to blame, I make a lot of cake but most of it I give away to cheer other people up. No, our downfall is cheese. Cheese, but also sausages, mash, gin and red wine…

And in this year of ups and downs and illness (never really recovered from the flu before being struck down by cold after cold) that there has been a lot of comfort eating…

 I don’t believe in diets though, or rather “dieting”. You follow a diet for a set time, loose weight and then go back to how you used to be, and the weight just all comes back…I also don’t believe in “good” and “bad” foods. Food is a source of energy, if you eat it you will live, however some foods you can eat more of without an adverse effect on your weight and some foods are probably best kept for treats ! (Supersize me demonstrates that quite well !).

 I also don’t believe in daily calorie limits…I don’t believe in beating yourself up on Monday because you pushed the boat out on Sunday…As long as what you eat is on average healthy and not heavily laden with fat and sugar then the occasional G&T is not a reason for abandoning any attempt at healthy living as doomed from the start!

 So the direction I’m going in is a slow and gentle tweaking of what the household eats.

Dieting with the fun left in means embracing healthy eating but still enjoying it…food and eating can be a pleasure, it should not be purely about refuelling.  Along the way there are a few other things I’d like to achieve like putting the fun back into packed lunches, finding food that I am happy cooking that my family will actually eat, cutting out waste, eating locally and seasonally (not because of my carbon footprint but because buying locally helps support my local community and strawberries do taste better in the sun in June than at Christmas)…

 And what about cookbooks ?  I have shelf after shelf of cook books…I read them…I dream of cooking from them, sometimes I actually do. But it cannot be denied that a lot of the recipes in these books are likely to assist with piling on the pounds…or at least the ones that leap off the page at you saying “cook me, cook me”…even the books where  you would assume the recipes will be good wholesome food, such as Nigel Slater’s Tender (it’s a book about vegetables, how can it not be good for you ?) turn out to be full of butter, cream, olive oil… Well, I’ll still be reading cookbooks, but mixing the high calorific food in with the less calorific…the key is moderation…and finding better ways of cooking the same thing

 Eating healthily will not be easy…I mean we know how to cook but…as a family we are time poor…also the majority of the family has an uneasy relationship with most vegetables apart from potatoes…

 And for those who are interested  this is a visual representation of how much weight we are aiming to shift… at least it will be when I can work out how to get the photo off the camera

Asparagus

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One of the perks of being a spring baby, apart from the fact you get to pretend each year that the world has turned blue just for you (saw my first bluebells today), is all the fabulous foods you could eat for a birthday meal such as salmon, new potatoes, asparagus, peas – all which taste wonderful with a bit of butter.

But butter is off the menu for me at the moment, which makes me wonder what to do with asparagus.

Asparagus is one of the best things about May. Growing up in Worcestershire it was a common sight to see small stalls outside (mainly farm) gates with an honesty box and a price of 50p a bundle. I was very surprised later to discover it was considered a bit “posh”. I haven’t always loved “Sparrowgrass” though…it used to be on the (small) list of foods I didn’t eat having encounted it tinned at the age of 6. But now I am crazy about the stuff and am already on the hunt for the first local source.

Asparagus is the first chapter in Tender but I don’t think I will be growing it as I don’t have enough space in the garden and its a lot of hassle when its just me that eats the stuff. Also I doubt I will be doing many of the recipes from this section as they all involve “fat” in some form (soft cheese, bacon/pancetta, butter etc). There is quite a healthy looking pilaf though…and there is always soup, dipping it in a soft boiled egg, roasting.

I’m afraid my family will just have to put up with the fact that my pee smells a bit strange because, despite my self-imposed butter ban I am looking forward to eating fields of the stuff. Bring on the spring !

Birthdaysaurus

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Apologies for the lack of posts here of late. I lost interest in food, food in general including cake.  Cooking was happening here, mainly by Husband but I did my fair share (I don’t think its fair in a relationship for it to always be one partner who ends up having to do a particular thing – although we do both agree that it’s pointless asking me to map read !) but I just had no desire to write about it, because my heart wasn’t in it.

I did make an effort for special occasions such as Spider’s 5th birthday, but there were so many other things going on that I forgot to take a picture – fortunately my Mum turned up complete with camera and managed to capture the gigantic beast in the kitchen, shortly after having his neck stuck back on (with water !) and some time before it was consumed by a hoard of hungry party goers…

I still have no interest in food – but that may be about to change. We have spent most of today reclaiming our back garden and filling a skip with builders waste (old wood, broken doors and windows etc) – We kept some wood for making raised beds and I have a big box full of seeds, Nigel Slater’s “Tender v1” (which incidently is currently half  price at Amazon) and a sneaking feeling that if I want to shift his next stone of weight I probably should major on the vegetables this summer as well as the exercise (4 mile walk last night and 5 hours of shifting builders rubbish today).

Tonight though I’m feeling too tired to do anything but collapse…

Tender: Nigel Slater

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Tender came out in October 2009. I have, from time to time fondled it in various bookshops and admired the usual beautiful photographs, carefully chosen paper and print style and of course his wonderful wonderful words…I didn’t admire the price though (£25 full price – amazon currently have it half price). So thinking carefully about it I resolved, no more recipe books. I have enough. Maybe in the future if I see it secondhand…

Mum, thankfully, ignored my resolve and for that she had a special hug on Christmas day…which surprised her as she was in the middle of taking the turkey out the oven !

Thankfully since Christmas we have been living on leftovers which has given me plenty of time to hideaway with my beloved Nigel, pouring over his beautiful prose and planning the vegetable garden. Maybe this year I will get it off the ground – last year my seedlings withered in the kitchen when we were let down over the promised allotment.

It’s timely too as one of my plans this year is to get more vegetables into our diet…I have a sneaking suspicion that it may lead to less colds and a general feeling of well being.

Despite the fact that the kitchen is currently our of commission (see previous post) I do have a vegetable soup on the go (The usual end of life fridge soup, loosely based on a Covent Garden caramalised root vegetable recipe (because I have turnips in the fridge)…and a vague plan to stop at a Farm Shop on the way back from Banbury later today.

There is a problem with this however, as by and large I cook for a family and my family are not really into vegetables – although Spider is getting better – he ate the maple syrup parsnips (p383) I did with the roast beef.

My impressions on the book though are that it is beautifully written but not that it makes me want to get into the kitchen – this is not because Nigel hasn’t served up his usual selection of fabulous ideas but because everytime I read something part of me is thinking “oh so and so won’t eat that” – what is does make me want to do however is get out into the garden and plant things !

Current plans however involve the chapter on Sprouts (Husband oddly, does eat sprouts) and all the Soup recipes which are in season. The book is, unsurprisingly, rather short on cake recipes, and of the 3 there are I have already made 2 of them as they were previously published in the Observer – however in view of the drastic need to reduce calorie intake in this house, this lack is no bad thing…

But first I must finish off painting the kitchen, otherwise we will be living off pizza and cheese on toast for the next few days.